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German minister threatens ‘indefinite driving bans’ on weekends


Germany’s transport minister is threatening to ban driving on weekends to meet climate goals if the ruling coalition does not pass reforms to the Climate Protection Act by July.

“The fact that the amendment is still not in force leads to considerable legal and factual uncertainties,” liberal politician Volker Wissing wrote in a letter to the parliamentary group leaders of the coalition, German outlet BILD reported Thursday.

“This serves neither the climate nor the reputation of the federal government,” he said.

A reduction in traffic to help meet the climate goals would only be possible through measures that are difficult to communicate to the public, such as “comprehensive and indefinite driving bans on Saturdays and Sundays,” Wissing added.

The federal coalition government, made up of the center-left Social Democrats, the Greens and the liberal Free Democrats, has been at odds for months over issues including a payment card for refugees, Germany’s debt brake and, lately, elephants.

The planned amendment to the emissions-reduction law allows climate goals to be reviewed for compliance by looking at all sectors together instead of individually. If the overall target is missed two years in a row, then the federal government is to decide in which sector and with which measures the permitted total amount of carbon dioxide emissions is to be achieved by 2030.

If the planned reforms are not passed through parliament by July 15, Wissing warned, the Ministry for Digital and Transport would be obliged to submit an “immediate action program that ensures compliance with the annual emission levels of the transport sector” until 2030 — which would include a driving ban on weekends.

Environmental organizations — including Greenpeace, the German Federation for the Environment and Nature Conservation BUND, and Fridays for Future — criticize the planned abolition of individual sector targets. They fear that an overall calculation obscures the impact of certain sectors — especially the traffic sector, which frequently doesn’t meet targets.

“This claim is simply wrong,” Green parliamentary group leader Julia Verlinden told the German Press Agency, referring to Wissing’s threat of a weekend driving ban. She added that Wissing should not aggravate people unnecessarily because there are other ways to tackle climate issues, such as a speed limit.

The highway speed limit is a controversial debate in Germany. At the beginning of April, Wissing stressed that the government isn’t looking to implement a speed limit on highways.

The FDP, the right-wing Alternative for Germany and the conservative Christian Democratic Union have spoken out against it. Wissing’s party rejects any disproportionate bans on mobility” in its election program.

Greenpeace mobility expert Clara Thompson told the German Press Agency that the transport minister was “shamelessly” trying to distract from his his own failures.

“Wissing has wasted two years blocking every climate protection measure in road traffic — now he is coming up with horror scenarios so that he won’t have to do anything in the future either,” she said.

Source: Politico

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